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Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that 2K first tried to sign Goldberg for previous games, but it was none other than WWE Chairman Vince McMahon who put a stop to that.
Goldberg didn't leave WWE on good terms back in 2004. Meltzer reports that the split left McMahon so negative on the former World Heavyweight Champion that when WWE was in talks to sign UFC's Mike Goldberg as an announcer, McMahon wanted him to change his name for that reason. The original plan for Goldberg's arrival in WWE was for him to work a series of three matches against The Rock, but those plans changed to what we ended up seeing on WWE TV when Rock's movie career took off.
As previously noted, WWE's Goldberg DVD garnered better sales than the company expected, which could have lead to Vince McMahon signing off on him being included in 2K17.